© 2018

Consciousness and the Philosophy of Signs

How Peircean Semiotics Combines Phenomenal Qualia and Practical Effects

  • Develops a novel stance on one of the most vibrant controversies in current philosophy: “the hard problem of consciousness”

  • Lifts Peirce's difficult semiotic theory out of its inner circle of experts, showing why and how it can advance mainstream philosophical debates

  • Explores important but misunderstood principles like iconicity and the type/token/tone distinction


Part of the Studies in the History of Philosophy of Mind book series (SHPM, volume 19)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-x
  2. Marc Champagne
    Pages 1-10
  3. Marc Champagne
    Pages 79-99
  4. Marc Champagne
    Pages 101-115
  5. Marc Champagne
    Pages 117-123
  6. Back Matter
    Pages 125-127

About this book


It is often thought that consciousness has a qualitative dimension that cannot be tracked by science. Recently, however, some philosophers have argued that this worry stems not from an elusive feature of the mind, but from the special nature of the concepts used to describe conscious states. Marc Champagne draws on the neglected branch of philosophy of signs or semiotics to develop a new take on this strategy.  

The term “semiotics” was introduced by John Locke in the modern period – its etymology is ancient Greek, and its theoretical underpinnings are medieval. Charles Sanders Peirce made major advances in semiotics, so he can act as a pipeline for these forgotten ideas. Most philosophers know Peirce as the founder of American pragmatism, but few know that he also coined the term “qualia,” which is meant to capture the intrinsic feel of an experience. Since pragmatic verification and qualia are now seen as conflicting commitments, Champagne endeavors to understand how Peirce could (or thought he could) have it both ways. The key, he suggests, is to understand how humans can insert distinctions between features that are always bound. 

Recent attempts to take qualities seriously have resulted in versions of panpsychism, but Champagne outlines a more plausible way to achieve this. So, while semiotics has until now been the least known branch of philosophy ending in –ics, his book shows how a better understanding of that branch can move one of the liveliest debates in philosophy forward.


Charles Sanders Peirce Qualia Phenomenal consciousness Cognitive semiotics David Chalmers Ned Block Functionalism Iconicity Secondary qualities

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyTrent UniversityPeterboroughCanada

About the authors

Marc Champagne is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Trent University. He holds a Ph.D. degree in Philosophy from York University and a Ph.D. degree in Semiotics from UQAM, where he studied with the Peirce-Wittgenstein Research Group. In addition to publishing in many peer-reviewed philosophy journals, he was tasked with gathering the best literature on semiotics for Oxford Bibliographies in Philosophy.

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Consciousness and the Philosophy of Signs
  • Book Subtitle How Peircean Semiotics Combines Phenomenal Qualia and Practical Effects
  • Authors Marc Champagne
  • Series Title Studies in the History of Philosophy of Mind
  • Series Abbreviated Title Studies History Philosophy
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018
  • Publisher Name Springer, Cham
  • eBook Packages Religion and Philosophy Philosophy and Religion (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-319-73337-1
  • Softcover ISBN 978-3-030-10357-6
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-319-73338-8
  • Series ISSN 1573-5834
  • Series E-ISSN 2542-9922
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages X, 127
  • Number of Illustrations 0 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Philosophy of Mind
    History of Philosophy
    Cognitive Psychology
  • Buy this book on publisher's site


“Marc Champagne’s new book Consciousness and the Philosophy of Signs is a triumph. The book is eminently well informed, well reasoned, well written, and well worth reading.” (Jamin Pelkey, American Journal of Semiotics, Vol. 35 (3-4), 2019)

“Marc Champagne makes large claims and indeed undertakes what might seem to some readers a Herculean task -- to solve the ‘hard problem’, as the problem of qualia has come to be identified in the philosophy of mind. … This is a very suggestive book. It is moreover a clearly and engagingly written text, and (for the most part) a carefully and responsibly argued one.” (Vincent M. Colapietro, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews,, October 7, 2018)